Book Review: A Fistful of Credits

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Hey Space Cadets, how’re you doing?  I’m good, working on finalizing the edits on a short story and starting writing my super secret book. Meanwhile, I’m still reading and wanted to share what I’ve enjoyed lately. Here is the next installment in my series of book reviews.  I’ve just finished editing the final book of  the Sleeping Legion Series, which is with Boss Man for final approval, and am working on editing a short story that was accepted into The Expanding Universe 3 Anthology.  Finally, I have two recent publications to recommend to you. If you haven’t read it, Operation Breakout and a Four Horsemen Anthology, For a Few Credits More are available on Amazon.

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ANTHOLOGIES GALORE

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Hey Space Cadets, how’re yall doing today?  I’m doing good, just took my son to the Children’s Museum of Portsmouth! He loved being able to touch science, and we followed that up with a nice brewery and a stroll along the waterfront. So besides having fun, I wanted to bring you some good news to share!  Two of my short stories were accepted into anthologies!  Wanna know more?  Let’s break it down!  Continue reading

Book Review: Dynamo (Mech Wars Book 2)

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Hey Space Cadets, here is the next installment in my series of book reviews. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m a member of the TRMN. It’s a fan club for the Honor Harrington Universe by David Weber, and they do contests for their members all the time. There is a reading contest going on recently, and we get points for page reads. I’m thrilled that it prompted me to read more, as I’ve let writing get in the way of reading!  In addition to reading more this month, I’m working on the editorial revisions for book four of The Sleeping Legion Series.  Finally, if you haven’t read it, Operation Breakout is live! Continue reading

Daily Exercise Podcast Time

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JR ExercisingHey Space Cadets, how’re y’all doing this fine day?  I’m doing great, and cranking away on the revisions to book four! I’ve also been exercising every day to clear my mind, and hopefully maybe fit back into my uniform before the decade ends! Okay, maybe that last part was a pipe dream, but I’m okay with it!  Anyway, while I walk, I like to listen to podcasts and audiobooks.  I’ll give you a list of some of the podcasts I listen to, and some good audio books in another post!  Most of my podcasts are writing related, or historical in nature, so I can inundate myself with ideas to stir the stories.  Hopefully, these podcasts are helpful!

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RavenCon AAR

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RavenCon

Hey Space Cadets, I hope you’re doing well!  I just returned from RavenCon, where I spent the weekend.  I thought it would be helpful to give an AAR (After Action Review) of the convention, since I did the same thing last year.  After the convention ended, I spent a night in the hotel with my lovely bride and we enjoyed some time without the kids because we both have the world’s best parents!  A leisurely breakfast, a road trip home and then I got to tackle life at home.  Somehow, whenever the wife packs for anything my house looks like someone dropped a bomb on it.  Now that the adventure is done, it’s time to jump deep into the writing trenches and write book four of the Sleeping Legion Series.  If you missed it, Operation Breakout was published last week, go check it out!

 

Hotel: Overall, the hotel facilities for the convention were clean and well maintained.  Our rooms were clean, spacious and the bed was comfortable.  Had to talk my wife out of kidnapping the mattress.  Unfortunately, the staff left something to be desired.  I missed two panels sorting out my room, not because they lost my reservation but they just didn’t clean the room before our arrival.  We got there at 1PM and finally checked in by 4PM.  I missed the first panel, got my wife into the room and resting before I then went to the classes I’d planned on attending.  Then I snuck out of the opening ceremonies and carried in our luggage before my wife and I went down to order dinner from their restaurant.  The food was good, though we waited an hour for it to arrive.  Another panel missed.  Overall, at the rates I paid I would expect more.  Since I didn’t reserve my room in time, I paid full price for my suite and expected better.  I guess I thought the name Hilton meant the hotel staff would be nicer.  Oh well, I only have to go to this hotel once a year for RavenCon.

 

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Con Organization: These guys were like a well-oiled machine and I was thoroughly impressed.  They could teach some militaries a thing or two about logistics!  I was impressed, the attendees seemed to be impressed and the overall experience was enjoyable.  They arranged several classes with the famous Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon, arranged for other interesting guests and panelists, and put out one heck of a spread in the Con Suite.  If conditions permit, I would attend RavenCon again. Seriously, it was a top-notch performance.

 

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Panels:  I have to be honest, when I attended RavenCon in 2016 the whole shebang was so helpful to me as a yet unpublished author.  I believe that it has helped me reach the level of success I’ve had so far, and taught me a lot.  I went this year expecting the same, but I’m not the same writer I was a year ago.  The panels were still great; however, they didn’t do it for me.  I was past the point with writing where they could offer me what I needed.  The convention offers you a wide range of options; editing, marketing, social media, world building and so much more.  All seemed focused on the writing, or the fandoms.  I also saw the difference an awesome moderators can make on a panel.  Some of the more successful panel moderators I saw were; Chris Kennedy, Mark Wandrey, Nancy Northcott, and Charity Ayers.  I was able to contrast this against some of the less adept panel moderators, who made efforts but couldn’t corral the shenanigans of the outgoing panelists.

 

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Cos Play: My goodness, the amount of awesome costumes this year was unbelievable.  I won’t gush too much, but just check out some of these pictures!  I couldn’t capture all of them, because I only took pictures if the person consented.

 

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Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!

brown_bess

JR

 

–> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are used on the Fair Use Doctrine.

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Book Review: Cartwright’s Cavaliers

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Hey Space Cadets, here is the next installment in my series of book reviews.  As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m working on book four of The Sleeping Legion Series.  Full speed ahead, and damn the torpedoes or something!  I will hold what I made in book three; loads of action, some surprises and a lot of exploding goodness.  Don’t believe me?  Read it for yourself, Operation Breakout is live!  Now I’m working on the last two novels in The Sleeping Legion Series and outlining my next project.  It’s based off of one of my twisted dreams, I think it’s gonna be the next big thing in science fiction.  It feels like a winner, but you’ll have to wait and see!

 

But enough about me, onto this specific review.  After I read book two in this series as an ARC, I knew I wanted more.  So, what did I do?  I bought book one of course!  Now let’s get to it!

 

Title:  Cartwright’s Cavaliers

Author:  Mark Wandrey

Price:  $3.99 USD (Kindle Edition)

Obtained:  I bought this story and audiobook off Amazon after loving another book in the series, Asbaran Solutions.

Pages:  473

 

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Rating:  5/5 Grenades

5 Grenade

 

 

Summary:

First, let me say that none of what I’ll say in this section couldn’t be found on the back copy of the novel.  I wanted to provide a spoiler free review, so here goes nothing!  Ultimately, this is a family saga, a tale of redemption and one man’s journey to acceptance.  The main character, Jimmy Cartwright, was the only son of the owner and commanding officer of Cartwright’s Cavaliers.  Heir to one of the leading “Four Horsemen” mercenary companies, he was all set to inherit the family business.  Except he had one little hurdle.  His mom bankrupted the family business, running off with the money and he was too fat for field work to remake the family fortune.  He wasn’t just chubby, he was morbidly obese and not fit for field work.  Lucky for Jim, his predecessors were smart, they’d created a charitable endowment that left outdated equipment Jim could use to complete the next contract.  And then, just maybe, resurrect the company. It’s up to Jim to find the people he needs to operate the machinery of war, train them, and lead them to victory. But the company will only be saved if he’s good enough.
 

Characters: 

There are two main characters in this story; Jim Cartwright and the Cartwright’s Cavaliers mercenary company.

 

Jim Cartwright:  He is the main character in this story, on a quest to save his birthright.  Jim comes to his majority just as his mom robs the family company blind, making a series of bad business decisions.  We suspect she embezzled from the company, though this isn’t spelled out in the text.  The author, Mark Wandrey, is good like that.  He writes layers, like an onion.  With nothing to lose, Jim uses a few corporate cast offs to rebuild the company.  By saving the company, he can prove his worth to the long line of Cartwright’s who’d made the company great.   At first, I didn’t know what to make of the character the author created.  He laid it on thick, talking about the largeness of Jim’s girth.  He didn’t go for chubby, or a few extra pounds, but truly morbidly obese.  Okay, that is believable but then the overall effect was a character that was more YA than Mil SciFy.  I liked him because I know how hard it can be to struggle with your weight.  But it felt a little out of place for a military science fiction action hero.  As time went on he grew on me even more.  He was a Brony, which also felt too YA for my tastes, but the story was too fast paced to make it an issue.  Overall, Jim had a definitive character arc, was flushed out and thoroughly described.  You never felt like he was a blank shell, he was a character all on his own.  I liked that with the loss of his parents, through death and abandonment, Jim made his company his family his priority.  I deeply respected him for it.  Jim’s love of his new family, Cartwright’s Cavaliers, was the best feature of the child thrust into manhood amid a legacy at its lowest point in living memory.

 

Cartwright’s Cavaliers: This is the company that is at the heart of the adventures of Jim Cartwright.  This company serves as Jim’s new family, and the story is about saving it at all costs.  It’s a connection with his heritage and his forefathers.  The company personifies special time he spent perched on his father’s shoulder learning about the galaxy and the mercenary life that Earth provided to the sentient species whom inhabited it.  With its mere existence, this company drives the plot and serves as the invisible puppet master pulling all the strings.

 

Plot: 

Like most of the military science fiction I love to read, this was an action-packed novel.  Heck, maybe it was even more action-packed than some?  The beginning was a bit of a flashback, and we get to watch Jim grow up into the adult who reaches his majority as the company fails.  I wasn’t able to read this book from start to finish in one setting because of its length but I wanted too.  I believed that the tactics worked for the novel, especially the mechanized ones.  The action on the ground was believable, given the world building the author created.  I loved all of the bad assed mech like their CASPer’s, the main mech toy for the human merc companies.  With this workhorse of the mercs you can get away with a run and gun strategy.  No need for too much sophistication, it’d feel out of place.  When you’re King Cong, you don’t sneak around.  Why would you?  The story flowed seamlessly from one plot point to another, which made it easy to read and follow.

 

World Building:

This is the second book I’ve read by Mark Wandrey, but between his first book (which I loved) and solid reviews I was sold.  I wasn’t disappointed!  Hell, I’ll probably check out more of his books across his universes.  This world was very flushed out, and left you curious about the larger universe.  I can’t wait to read the rest of this series, and see where else the universe expands too.  While this is science fiction, and you definitely need to have some suspension of belief for the aliens Mark Wandrey invents.  However, within the universe he builds they’re totally believable.  Cartwright’s Cavaliers definitely had shades of the Prodigal Son, just like the other book in the series.  Unlike other authors, Mark does everything with a metric butt ton of death and explosions.  The one part I wasn’t thrilled about was the concept of Earth evolving into a system of the mercenary corporate planet, without any nation states, but it is a common trope in science fiction.  Overall, this didn’t dissuade me from enjoying this story and I’m aware that many people LOVE those kinds of universe set ups.  In a nut shell, the world building gets an A- from me, but only because of the lack of explanations on HOW we became a planet without nations.

 

Description: 

This book was chalk full of visualization, and you could definitely imagine yourself in this world.  It felt very flushed out, and there were times where you could even smell the aliens.  I love it when a book is this immersive, where it takes you deeply into the world.  For me, if a book isn’t described enough that I can imagine myself into the story.  If a story is truly good, I often find myself imagining what happens when the book ends.  That doesn’t work in books where the world wasn’t flushed out.  In this category, Mark gets an A+++!

 

Overall:

I really loved this book, though the Brony thing seemed forced and unnecessary.  Also, there was an unspecified romance (spoiler free remember) that felt forced and unnecessary.  It didn’t serve the plot, though I’d concede it could come into play in later books.  That aside, the novel was awesomely written and the cover was amazing.  The cover art was awesome, heck I even hired the artist for my No Marine Left Behind novelette.  And the plot was everything a science fiction fan will love, definitely 5 out of 5 Grenades.  Mark Wandrey had me hooked from the beginning, and kept it going throughout the whole novel.  It’s an amazing adventure, a look into Mark’s twisted imagination, and leaves you wishing that his therapist had a therapist.  This is a book I would happily recommend, and an author I will definitely read again.  Heck, I would even recommend that you buy the novel!  But hey, it’s easy to spend someone else’s money!

 

 

If this book sounds like it’s right up your alley, check it out, you won’t regret it!  Well, unless it motivates you to develop your own mech goodness.  So you take loads of science classes, and graduate from college.  Your mom will be so proud, you’ll be so proud and then you’ll get a job so you can play in cool labs.  And since you’re so proud of your achievements, you rush through looking for the next one.  After handing your buddy your drink, you say “I’ve got this, hold my beer.”  But it doesn’t go as planned.  BOOM!  You’ve blown up not just your lab, but the entire city you live in.  You become the most hated person in your state, and the fodder for a generations of internet memes.  Well yeah, I guess this could be bad for your health.  But hey, at least you got to see your house from orbit as you flew into the air, seconds from death.  On second thought, be warned, fanboy/fangirl syndrome MIGHT kill you.  Be wary, you were warned and if you have to go out like that at least enjoy the view from up there!

 

Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!

brown_bess

JR

 

–> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are used on the Fair Use Doctrine.

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World Building Wednesday: Cover Art

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Hey Space Cadets, how are you doing today?  Things are good here, the interview with The Dead Robots Society Podcast went well.  As soon as I know when it’s going to go live, I’ll spread the word.  I tried not to sound like too much of an idiot, but you’ll have to be the judge of that.  And on the writing front, I’m half way done with my short story for the Four Horsemen Anthology.  I’ve also started the outline process for book four, which we’re tentatively titling Maternal Vengeance.  I don’t know the date book three, Operation Breakout, will go live but I’ll keep everyone posted.

 

Now, on to today’s World Builder Wednesday!  Today we talk about cover designs!  I’m no expert, and I’m actually colorblind, so this is a hard one for me.  My friends Corey and MLS Weech are actually much better at this part, so you should check them out if you want an expert opinion on the topic!  To my way of thinking, there are several steps you have in picking the cover for your next best seller, and I’m sure I’m missing a few. So rather than tell you this is the way, let me just say that this was my way. That’s right, the Burger King of cover designs.

 

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The first step in picking out a cover was to figure out my genre, since I know each genre and subgenre have their own idiosyncrasies.  Once I knew where my book would fall in the pantheon of fictional greatness, it was a simple matter of looking at other well received covers in that genre.  I found out what expectations they created, trying to get a general feel for my own design.  This step is the most dangerous, as you could spend hours drooling over art and lose yourself so completely that your wife and kids send out the hounds and form a search party.  Be warned, never browse covers alone!  Seriously, that’s my PSA for the day!!  Don’t do it, you’ve been warned!

 

Once I knew what I wanted, overall, I started to figure out designs for my own book.  How could I come up with a cover for my own book that fit within this niche?  You want to do two things; show your reader what type of book they’re getting, and not create false expectations of your own book. You don’t want pictures of spaceships on your novel if they’re planet bound.  Nor would your cover have some half naked beefcake if you’re writing lesbian erotica.  The cover HAS to show the potential reader what they’re likely to find inside.  For me, this meant considering the overall theme of the book and scenes from within it.  How you choose to go about it is largely dependent on the book you write, but you have to have a starting point for any potential artist you hire.

 

After you pick the general idea you want for this masterpiece, you begin the second most dangerous part; browsing the portfolios of cover artists.  This is another phase that can suck you in, and still your soul.  You could lose days, weeks, maybe even years rousing the artistic awesomeness of the various cover designers out there.  Don’t be that guy, be disciplined and direct.  After all, you have to get this done an expedited manner so you can write the next great American novel there’s always more books to write, so you can’t afford to get sucked into the outer trappings.  I was lucky for this stage, I had another author, Chris Kennedy, lend me his cover designer.  He made it easy by serving as the middleman, but I know this will always be the case and don’t need to learn to stand on my own.  My advice, at least for finding good cover artists, is to start searching now so when you’re ready you just have to reach out.  And find several you like, as you never know when they’ll be available.

 

Just to show you an example of my process for my pending short story, “No Marine Left Behind.”  This story tells Sashala’s journey during Phase Guinshrike of Tim C. Taylor’s Renegade Legion, into Lance’s world in Fortress Beta City.  For this story, I told the artist to give me space Marine’s in bad assed power armor.  I wanted them to be in some burning woods after a shuttle dropped them off, and I wanted the dying Beta City in the background.  This is the progression of the art in question.  Hopefully this helps clear up my muddy explanation of the process!  If not, least you get pretty pictures!!

 

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Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry! 

brown_bess

JR

 

–> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are screen grabs taken by JR Handley for use under the Fair Use Doctrine.

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